It comes as no news that the legal landscape has changed immensely after the Jackson reforms. What is new, however, is the impact judges are having on the viability of complex cases.
Complex cases, such as those involving children, have already become increasingly challenging for law firms to take on. The additional procedures in cases involving children often make them more expensive to run.
But as Rachel Rothwell points out in her piece in Law Society Gazette, an increasing number of judges are refusing to allow lawyers in infant claims to take their success fee. As Rothwell points out, a well-intentioned decision to keep a child’s compensation intact and disallow success fees can have dire consequences.
“PI law firms are already being squeezed financially, and they need to charge success fees in infant claims in the same way that they do for other claims where they are taking on risk,” she writes.
“If this practice persists in the courts, it will start getting more and more difficult for child claimants to find a lawyer willing to act for them.”
A recent review of National Accident Helpline’s panel firms showed that the times are indeed tough for complex claims. 43% of firms were forced to be more selective in the cases they take on.
We remain committed to supporting genuine accident victims and, in particular, ensuring that the most vulnerable groups continue to have access to justice, but action is also needed by others impacting on the post-Jackson world.
If the alarm bells haven’t started ringing in the courts yet, they should be now. Well-meaning judges must come to reconsider the way they treat legal compensation in such cases and how their rulings can affect access to justice today and in the long term.
Lawyers did not want to make deductions from clients’ compensation but as a result of government policy need to do so to balance their books. The Judiciary must keep an eye on the bigger picture when considering deductions from compensation in order to allow lawyers to provide access to justice for vulnerable groups with difficult cases.